UND wellness and psychology experts say New Year’s resolutions are great – in moderation

Health & Wellness Hub director Jane Croeker: success equals doable, measurable goals

Avoirdupois avoidance — or the battle of the bulge — is on…again.

“Losing weight is always one of the top New Year’s resolutions,” says Jane Croeker, director of health and wellness promotion at the University of North Dakota Wellness Center’s unit in the Memorial Union. “It’s right up there with quitting smoking.”

Map it any way you want, weight loss in its many incarnations continues to grab the top spot on many to-do lists, according to a Google search for “New Year’s Resolutions.” Another top resolution: quit smoking. Many folks also put working less and spending more time with family and friends right up there on the list of gotta-do this year.

Not everyone posts the same list, though.

“For 2014, I want to publish, but not perish,” quips Richard Ferraro, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

Ferraro’s resolution underscores a key factor in keeping your resolutions — they have to be doable.

That said, Croeker offers some tips for making — and sticking to — an effective list of resolutions.

“I do set goals for myself, but not just at the first of the year,” she says. “Wellness, including weight loss, in particular, is a journey not a destination. The problem with a lot of New Year’s resolutions is that they’re too extreme. If you’re going to set goals for yourself, write them down — that’s a good place to start. Then make sure they’re realistic, specific, measurable, and — above all — attainable.”

Croeker, who advises students all year long in health and wellness matter, says setting a time frame also is vital.

“Take smaller steps — for example, if your goal is to improve your nutritional health, decide to eat healthier one day at a time by eating one more serving of fresh fruit,” she says. “So on your way home, you buy yourself those extra daily servings. Could be more vegetables, too, but whatever it is, assure yourself of success by taking small steps.”

Croeker says turning over a whole new leaf is a laudable goal.

“Sure, you want to be a new person come Jan. 1,” says Croeker. “But that’s real tough and you’ll more likely to fail if you set yourself up with such a big task. To be successful in goal-setting, you have to make a commitment. Once your new behavior becomes a habit, a routine, maybe then you can think about the next step. Trying to do too many big things doesn’t work.”

“People do things when they’re ready, like quitting smoking,” says Croeker, who notes that she quit smoking “cold turkey” more than 30 years ago when she was laboring as a social worker.

“Our Wellness Center — a similar places around the country — are jammed right after first of the year,” she said. “Some of that is because people who overindulged during the holidays want to trim back, but many people also are there to start on their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get fitter, etc.”

Croeker says doable goals also include the human factor.

“Just because you slip once or twice — grabbing an extra candy bar, for example — don’t make that an excuse to go back to old habits,” she says. “Don’t use that one cookie as an excuse to eat half a package. You don’t want to be saying to yourself, ‘I failed so I’m just going back to my pack a day,’ or whatever. Don’t let one slip derail you — it’s OK to slip once in a while.”

Realistic goes hand in hand with doable.

“You can’t expect to go from sedentary to two hours of exercise per day,” Croeker says. “That’s not realistic; moreover, that’s hard on your body, so you’re not going to want to go on. Instead, set yourself up for success — if you want to quit smoking, don’t hang around people who smoke. If you’re trying to eat healthier don’t stash unhealthy treats around the house. Line up support from other people who have similar goals.”

Support means tying up with folks who’re there to encourage you.

“You don’t want people around who’re going to nag you about your goals,” Croeker says.

So go ahead, plan for a new you.

Just do it in do it in steps.

Maybe the best resolution, Croeker notes, is to plan for success.

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